by Julian Goldschmidt
Internationally renowned hip-hop artist Chali 2NA likes to paint, especially street art. “I could do this all day long,” he says, as he colours the beak of a puffin on the sea wall at Bondi Beach. Currently on a world tour with his band Jurassic 5, Chali says that creating street art, “It brings me back to my childhood. As a kid, I used to draw all the time.” Chali says his fascination for street art came long before his career as a rapper and hip-hop artist, although from an early age he saw painting as a way into the music world. However these days he doesn’t paint very often at home in Los Angeles.
“One of the things that got me into hip-hop, was this,” he says, rattling his can of spray paint. Chali grew up in Chicago and was around when hip-hop first started. He witnessed the birth of house music, although he was too young to understand what was going on, or take part in the sex or drug scene. Chali says that house music started in a Chicago club called The Warehouse, which only played that kind of music. Eventually, The Warehouse got shortened to just House, and a name was given to a new musical genre.
Chali, who has continued to build his network of friends in Australia since his first visit in 2004, let his friends know he wanted to paint while he was here. The message got through to local street artist Darren Stockwell who was happy to help out by sharing his section of the beach wall.
Street art is Darren’s passion, and he likes painting at Bondi because of the exposure. “Here, the photos people take of the murals will go back to someone’s home in Europe or America,” he says. Darren says his introduction to street art was through watching movies about New York gangs painting on the subway.
Bondi’s sea wall is operated by Waverley Council as a legal venue for street art, and those wanting to paint there must apply to the Council. The sea wall is the only site in the local area where street art is permitted. The Council notes the distinction between graffiti and “approved street art”, and says that in 2013, it received 4,866 reports concerning graffiti.